CEO and agripeneur David Davies immerses himself in an open-hearted interview with Dinis Guarda in his Open Business Council Youtube Podcast series. In it he recounts his story from his beginnings on a remote farm in South Australia to becoming the holder of the Global Agripeneur Award in 2018.
Dinis defines David as one of those people who “actually are driving projects that think out of the box”; a person who is really looking for solutions that can help to empower society, and also who is looking the best way to use technologies of our time to create a better narrative and not just the “dysfunctionality”, and sometimes the disruption, that we have been facing.
AgUnity, according to the CEO, was created around 2016 in a ‘FinTech for Good’ Hackathon with the aim of delivering the biggest world-changing idea they could ever think of in order to win the prize from the Singularity University. From the beginning the project has been focused on being a ‘tech for good’ venture, applying blockchain and smartphone technology to improve the lives of small farmer cooperatives in developing countries. Dinis sums it up: “There’s technology, there's fintech, there’s blockchain and there's crypto and there's decentralized technology, working together to deliver financial inclusion.”
Throughout the interview David tells that during his one-year adventure through West Africa, an area that he defined as one of “the poorest in the world”,he saw first-hand the challenges that really small holder farmers face. He also highlights the importance of differentiating how people adapt to things: “some people look for an opportunity that'll make money; most people in banking look for how can I use this, how can I do that…etc. I think the much more important thing is what is the problem you're trying to solve and then what can be used for it”.
“AgUnity is the combination of a history of working with mobile technology blockchain, having grown up on a farm and knowing the big scale of things, but also having experienced very first-hand what the challenges facing a remote area farmers are” David Davies
The idea of implementing a token like AgriUT was established from the beginning, but as David explains “we wanted to make sure that we had the farmers communities set up already”. In this same way, what is so important about the environment they released AgriUT into, is that the farmers already have the AgUnity phones and they're already trading with a buyer or co-operative.
For example, the simplest use that AgriUT has is when you are going to buy a bag of coffee from your local supermarket, and it has a QR code. You scan the code and that releases some tokes directly to the farmer. These tokens can be used to pay off their phone or order a solar kit or get seedlings from another cooperative. The CEO explains that “the real trick is to make the token known to those last small communities and then give a good way of using it”. The second trick faced by the company is to give the option to the cooperative, or buyer, or whoever is accepting the token to sell it back.
“We are dealing with a completely disconnected demographic that doesn't really know what would help them” - David Davies - “You’re working with people who may have been introduced to technology for the first time; you need a very very different, simplified approach and you need to make things visual so that they don’t need to rely on words”.
The team, which started with David and John, went from humble beginnings to now being just over 50 people in 18 countries spread all over the world. The firsts to join were Keith Nielsen and Stefan Barrett, who worked with David at Lehman brothers; “Once I told them what we were doing they more or less dropped their super affluent jobs and came with me to change the world.” explains David. They were followed by Petra Schneider and Angus Keck, who come from environmental and NGO backgrounds, bringing experience to AgUnity. To summarize the core team, David mentions Neville Wood as the strategist since the beginning of the project.
The mechanism developed by AgUnity runs as follows: The consumer releases the AgriUT, the farmer and their co-operative receive the AgriUT and then they sell it back to AgUnity, and from AgUnity the tokens are sold back to the consolidator entity known as Agrigata to be resold.
To summarize what was discussed in the interview, David recapitulates the entire process involved in AgUnity and its different branches: “AgUnity is the company that builds the technology, and is responsible for deploying it and supporting users; AgriUT Foundation creates the token and they fund projects, and other good initiatives with the money they’ve raised from that. Agrigata is where you can buy, sell and exchange the tokens. Then we have Agriwards, which is the site where you can see our farmers in Ethiopia, and in two weeks people are going to be able to see a couple of hundred farmers from Papua Guinea”. To end with the video call David assures Dinis they have a lot of big initiatives coming along.